Storm Barra: multiple warnings issued for Ireland and UK

There are warnings of dangerous coastal waves, atrocious driving conditions, travel delays, flooding and potential damage to buildings for when Storm Barra sweeps across Ireland and the UK.

Engineers were engaged in a race against time to restore power to about 1,600 homes in north-east England still cut off after the havoc wreaked by Storm Arwen 10 days ago.

A rare red alert was issued for Cork and Kerry in the Republic of Ireland ahead of Storm Barra, which is due to make landfall on Tuesday and Wednesday, with gusts of more than 80mph forecast.

In the UK yellow warnings have been issued. The Met Office meteorologist Annie Shuttleworth said the storm would bring windy weather to all parts of the UK as well as snow to northern England and parts of Scotland.

Barra will arrive in the early hours of Tuesday with gusts of up to 80mph expected on the western coasts of England and Wales coinciding with high tides. “That means that we’ll have especially large waves so there is a potential risk to life in these areas,” said Shuttleworth.

Gusts of up to 50mph are expected in inland areas, and are “likely to cause quite widespread travel disruption and potential road closures, delays to rail and ferries and so on. There is a chance of damage to buildings too,” she added.

There was a separate warning of strong winds and heavy rain for Northern Ireland from 6am Tuesday until 9am Wednesday. The storm could lead to flooding, unpleasant driving conditions, building damage and power cuts.

Driving conditions on Tuesday could be atrocious, forecasters warn, with heavy rain in the south of England and sleet and snow in the north of England and into Scotland. Blizzards and snowfall as deep as 20cm are expected at higher levels.

The saving grace is that Barra is not expected to be as strong as Arwen, which brought gusts up to 98mph that led to the worst damage to the electricity network in a generation and power cuts for more than 1m homes.

By Monday, the number without power was about 1,600 and Northern Power Grid said it expected power to be returned to those homes by Tuesday.

Some residents were not holding their breath. Stewart Sexton, who lives in Alnwick, said he had been promised a return of power every day since it went off.

“It’s exhausting, it’s wearing us down, and it’s a constant worry,” he said. “Every day seems to bring a new problem.”

In the Commons, Labour accused the government of treating people in the north of England and Scotland as second-class citizens.

The shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, quoted a Conservative councillor. “‘If this happened in London or in the south-east everything would have got thrown at it’. They are his words,” said Miliband. “Aren’t people in the north entitled to think he is right? They have been treated as second-class citizens.”

Miliband said lessons had not been learned from previous storms. “We have been here before. After the 2013 storms, multiple reports were produced. I have got them here … and they identify problems of communication, the vulnerability of the network, complacency of the companies.

“Isn’t the only conclusion that the government has been asleep at the wheel, not just in the last 10 days but for the best part of a decade?”

The energy minister, Greg Hands, said it was “completely unacceptable” that 1,600 homes were still without power on Monday, but added: “The situation is improving each hour.”

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